Artful Dodger reveals how streaming has changed music forever

A pair of headphones resting on an audio mixer in a studio

Music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music have changed the music game irrevocably in just a few short years.

We caught up with Mark Hill - record industry veteran and one half of UK garage legends Artful Dodger - to talk about what kind of changes the rise of audio streaming has had on the music business.

How has music streaming affected the emerging music scene?

It's brilliant, in a way, because you get access to so much more - literally, you get access to everything.

But part of it - and not just in streaming, there's the fact that it's so easy now to make music - is that sometimes there's just so much of it. It's like food; if you've got loads in front of you, you don't know what to choose.

It's made it very interesting. It's great that creative people are being given a level playing field, so they can get music to the audience. But now, it's just become so much more about marketing, and actually getting your music heard is the most difficult thing.

Sometimes it's just going to be easier to stick a playlist on, or something like Amazon Prime, or Spotify, and it's great that you can hear so much, but it also waters it down a little bit.

I tend to gravitate towards somebody that you like and trust and you know will sift through the noise to give you the best of what they've gone through. So it just makes life a lot easier, rather than have to sift through loads of stuff to find the gems.

Has the concept of people owning their own music died?

I'd hate to say it has. It's weird, I think people do feel that music isn't a tangible thing anymore. It's just something you enjoy and listen to, but it's not something you buy.

But I know there was a resurgence in vinyl sales over the last couple of years, so I think there's still a demand for people to have something physical. I do miss the days of double albums and artwork and liner notes, because half the time you don't actually know who's playing it if you hear it in the background, unless you happen to have Shazam on in time.

I used to be really into music because of the people that were producing it, or the musicians involved in it, but half the time, you've got no idea, unless you happen to catch somebody, or catch an interview with the people, and it's just not easily accessible, so I miss that. I do miss it.

It's hard to predict what's going to happen, but can you imagine it really coming back?

Has technology and social media changed the way that fans interact with artists and their music?

Massively. My first album, and the album I did with Craig David, came out in 1999/2000, which predated YouTube and Twitter and all that sort of stuff.

The hardest thing for me is that although there was much more mystique around music - and less of it being produced - I haven't got any photos, because phones didn't have cameras on them.

So much of that era and what we went through was just lost, so I love the fact now that you can actually interact with people. I still get starstruck when I retweet somebody and get a tweet back from somebody famous, which is kind of bizarre.

It's great in a way, but sometimes you want your artist to be almost untouchable, and an enigma, and something a little bit mysterious. I suppose people like Prince and David Bowie kept that legendary untouchable air because they [weren't] tweeting left, right and centre. But for new up-and-coming artists to interact with an audience and build a fanbase, it's an amazing tool.

How do you respond to artists who say that Spotify and Prime Music devalue their work?

I suppose they've got a point, in a way. If you're talking about record sales, and actually paying for music, I think the perceived value of the song is less.

But then again, because the value's gone down in the actual recorded work, people are much more interested in going to live gigs. I reckon people go to more festivals and gigs these days than I've ever seen, and the production values are much bigger. I mean, DJs and artists are getting paid a phenomenal amount of money to perform live.

So I suppose what it does is, because the value's less, it gets to a bigger audience. So their music still gets to an enormous audience, and then that drives ticket sales and merchandise and all that sort of stuff.

Yeah, I suppose the actual recorded work loses some value, but as an artist, I think there are benefits if you're clever about it.

Do you use streaming services yourself?

Well, to be honest, I'm a huge fan of music streaming. I love having access to records that I've long lost; my vinyl collection got destroyed back in the day. You know, things trigger memories and to actually be able to access it immediately and play it to my kids - I'm a huge fan. I've got no complaints.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.